Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 319–328 | Cite as

Surface alteration of basalt due to cation-migration

  • Dorothee J. M. BurkhardEmail author
  • Hiltrud Müller-Sigmund
Research Article


Basaltic lava from Kilauea, Hawaii may have a red-brown surface, indicative of Fe-(hydr)oxides. This surface is not found where exposed to weathering, but at the interface between lava lobes, or in the interior of lava channels. We use several analytical techniques to determine how these Fe-(hydr)oxide surfaces may have developed. WDS-elemental distribution line profiles from the lava surface towards the lava´s interior detect an Fe-rich film of less than 5 μm thickness. Heat treatment of quenched, fresh lava samples of the same chemical composition between 600–1,090°C helps to replicate temperatures under which such an Fe-rich film might have formed. These experiments suggest that Fe-enrichment occurs above 1,020°C, whereas at lower temperatures Ca is enriched relative to Fe. One sample was treated below the glass transition temperature, at 600°C for 164 h. A depth profile with secondary neutral mass spectrometry shows an enrichment of Mg at the outer 50 nm of the glass surface. The formation of films requires cation migration, which is driven by an oxygen chemical potential between air and the reduced basalt (Fe2+/Fe3+ ratio of 13.3). The change of surface alteration from Mg to Ca film at lower temperatures, to predominantly Fe at high temperatures, is determined by a change of cation availability, largely controlled by crystallization that already occurs below 850°C, and volume crystallization that occurs above 925°C.


Surface-alteration Basalt (glass) Cation transport Oxygen potential Kilauea, Hawaii 



The work was initiated during a field trip DJMB enjoyed on the lava fields of Pu`u O`o in December 1998 with Carl Thornber who was at that time at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO). DJMB thanks Don Swanson from HVO for logistical help. We appreciate the kind offer by Jim Kauahikaua, HVO, for the use of a photograph (Fig. 1) which demonstrates best the phenomena discussed in this paper. The authors thank M. Sommer, Institute for Instrumental Analytics, Karlsruhe Research Centre for the taking an SNMS depth profile. Harald Behrens, University of Hannover, Germany, provided valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. The authors thank an anonymous reviewer and especially RF Cooper for critical and supportive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothee J. M. Burkhard
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hiltrud Müller-Sigmund
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Technical Chemistry, Water and Geotechnology (ITC-WGT)Forschungszentrum KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Mineralogy and GeochemistryUniversity of KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Mineralogy, Petrology and GeochemistryUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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